From my novel, ROOTED:
After exiting the truck, Grover grabbed Slade by his bony arm and pulled him toward the house. “You look like you haven’t eaten in a month of Sundays. Got a pot of beans and a pan of cornbread inside. Get yourself filled up.”
Slade tried to resist, but Grover was stronger. “But…”
“But nothing,” Grover replied. “Come on.”
They mounted the porch and entered the house. The warm smell of cooking made Slade want to vomit, but there was nothing in him to come out. In the kitchen, Althea stirred a pot at the stove while Miss Josie spoke on the phone. Sarah Jane turned toward the men as they entered, and then turned quickly back to the sink full of dishes.
Grover marched Slade to the table and pushed him into a chair.
“Get him a plate, Althea,” Grover instructed, “and make sure he eats it.” Grover kept a stern eye on Slade.
“I’m not eating crap,” Slade mustered weakly. The truth was, even if he wanted to eat, he didn’t know if he could manage a fork.
Althea placed a plate of white beans and two large slabs of cornbread on the table before him. “Oh, you’re eating,” she stated, “and you’re going to clean your plate like a good boy.”
Slade looked at the plate. “This looks like puke,” he protested, crossing his measly arms across his measly chest. He looked up to find Althea and Grover standing over him.
“I don’t care if it tastes like puke,” Althea countered, “you’re gonna eat it, and you’re gonna eat it all.” She wagged a large and intimidating metal spoon in Slade’s sullen face.
“What about that one?” Grover nodded at Sarah Jane. “She been helping out?”
Althea frowned. “Of course, as best she can under the circumstances.”
Grover studied Sarah Jane’s frozen back at the sink. “Make sure she don’t run off on you. There’s cleaning to be done. I expect we’re going to have a houseful of guests, and I don’t want them thinking we live like trash.”
“Leave that girl alone, Grover McQuiston. You got enough to worry about without fussin’ about the house.”
Just as Grover opened his mouth to reply, Myrna rushed into the kitchen. Her eyes fell, solely on her father; she did not see anyone else.
Myrna’s many chins quivered and her lips shook. “Daddy…,” she held her arms out to Grover, who looked very uncomfortable with what was about to happen. “Daaaa….ddy,” she wailed and flew to him.
Grover reluctantly allowed Myrna to clutch him in a bear hug. Her sobs rose, her tears fell and her nose ran, all on Grover’s suit jacket. Her grief knew no bounds. Grover’s arms slowly and mechanically embraced his daughter. She failed to notice his stiffness, his unbending authority.
Grover patted Myrna’s formidable shoulder three times, and then said, “That’s enough, Myrna.” He opened his arms and expected Myrna to release him. But Myrna was not through needing her daddy. Grover had to say, “Myrna, that is ENOUGH,” to be free of her.
Myrna continued to cry and sniffle but had exchanged her big, gulping sobs for more of a whining whimper.
Grover looked at his daughter with a little disgust and a lot of dismay. “Pull yourself together, Myrna. That is no way to act at a time like this.”
“How’s the girl supposed to act?” Miss Josie questioned after hanging up the phone. “You could stand a little grief yourself, Grover McQuiston.”
Suddenly, Slade developed a strong need to lie down. His head hurt beyond anything he could have imagined, and the plate of puke before him only added to his discomfort. In his heart he knew what he really needed was a cigarette, and maybe a little blow, a couple of drinks to set him right. He was just low on reserves. He needed to refuel.
But there didn’t appear to be any fuel in sight. The only thing in sight was beans, white, puky beans. All thought left his head as he studied his food. Without being aware of it, he was drawn closer and closer to the plate mesmerized by the general pattern of the beans. His nose was only centimeters away from the bean pillow when a loud, piercing scream broke the spell and brought him back to reality.
It was Myrna. She had discovered Slade at the table and was shrieking. She clutched her chest and neck with her hands and scuttled to the far side of the kitchen. Everyone in the kitchen, but Slade, stared at her in amazement.
“What has got into you, child?” Miss Josie asked.
“He- he-,” Myrna gasped for air and pointed wildly at Slade. “That.. he’s the one… him…,” she babbled incoherently. Her wild eyes searched each face in the room.
“Stop that this instant,” Grover ordered. But Myrna would not be calmed.
“At the gas station, yesterday...” She pointed at Slade and managed to speak an entire sentence. “He attacked me. He attacked me and Precious. He’s…he’s a rapist!”
Slade turned his head to the side and said, “Give her the fucking beans.” At which point Althea struck his shoulder with the metal spoon and commanded, “Eat.”
His hands full with Myrna, Grover only said, “Mind your manners, boy.”
“Are you crazy?” Myrna screeched wildly. “Call the police, quick!” Myrna beseeched hysterically. She turned wide-eyed to Miss Josie and Althea and croaked, “We’re not safe, we’re not safe.”
Precious entered the kitchen and was not so much startled by Myrna’s screeching as the sight of the ghostly, blue-haired stranger. She opened her mouth and whispered breathlessly, “Isn’t he marvelous?”
“No, he is not marvelous,” Myrna hissed. “He’s Satan, in the flesh. Avert your eyes from the abomination!” Precious’s doe-like eyes remained glued to Slade as her quivering mother jerked her by the arm. Placing her substantial body protectively before her daughter’s unquestioned virtue, Myrna eyed Slade with panicked intensity. Precious squirmed behind her mother, desperate to see past the mammoth maternal object blocking her vision.
Slade dropped his fork and said, “Anyone got a smoke?” He looked hopefully at everyone in the kitchen, but didn’t recognize anyone but Grover. His eyes rested on Myrna. “Hey, aren’t you that dead cow from out front?”
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